Sunday, December 29, 2013

:: new year's resolutions, my favorite ::

That's not sarcasm, people. I LOVE making new year's resolutions. The whole year, clean and unblemished, stretching out before me. And I can make it the year I don't do anything sucky! Or I can try my hardest to be less sucky than the year before. There, that sounds more reasonable.

I feel like I'm fairly self aware, and I also have many folks around me who gently point out my flaws, so I have a ton of stuff to choose from. A biggie--giving up caffeine--I took care of in the fall. (Side note: it was HELL, I will never do crack if caffeine withdrawal is even a fraction of what kicking real drugs is like).

So, in no particular order:

-Keep an emergency $100 in apartment at all times (I never carry cash...and this has previously caused issues)

-Keep my gas tank half full at all times (I loathe getting gas...and this has previously caused issues)

-Lose 12 lbs and hold steady

-Up my rainy day fund to where it was in 2010

-Zero out my credit card

-Strive to be on time for scheduled appointments

-Do not buy any more black or gray dresses

-Do not buy any drugstore brand toiletries (cleanser, lotion, etc.)

Ok, that's enough for now. I'm tired just looking at it. But excited! Three cheers for 2014!
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Friday, December 27, 2013

:: holiday swapping fun ::

I'm not a super crazy holiday season lover, but I do enjoy picking out gifts for friends and family. And since I'm already doing all that shopping, which not add a few more folks into the mix?!

I was paired with two lovely bloggers, who put together the following cute holiday packages for me:

The ##bbsecretsanta swap with Olivia at This N That with Olivia. Lip gloss, hand cream and a polka-dotted mug. Perfection.

Snowflake Swap with Acacia at Hello Lovely. I don't know that I even told her how much I love making lists and writing down EVERYTHING. The items below should keep me busy for a while!

Happy holidays and all the best for 2014!
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

:: a little taste of france ::

I love Sandrine's in Harvard Square, but I don't go there nearly enough. Today for lunch I had rutabaga and butternut squash soup with a few rye croutons sprinkled on top. Delish.

Since now it's all I can think about, I found this recipe which, while it won't double as a lazy day in Marseilles, it could help you fake it for an hour or two.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree with Spinach
Serves 6 to 8

1 small (1 1/4 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large (or 4 small) leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced (white and pale green parts only)

2 shallots, chopped

4 fat cloves garlic, chopped

1 large russet potato (or 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

2 cups any kind of stock (I used duck stock, made in the wake of this video)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh sage

3 sprigs fresh parsley

1 (5-ounce) package washed baby spinach

1 Meyer or regular lemon, sliced into wedges, seeds removed


1.  Preheat oven to 450ºF.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash and rutabaga with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a few good turns of freshly ground black pepper.  Spread squash and rutabaga in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes, or until there’s some solid browning all over.

2.  Meanwhile, in a soup pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add leeks, shallots, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and sauté.  Stir frequently until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add potato, roasted squash and rutabaga, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to pot, and stir it around a bit.

4.  Using kitchen string, the thyme, sage, and parsley in a little bundle and add to pot (if you don't have kitchen string, you could stuff the herbs into a tea ball).  Add 4 cups of water and the 2 cups of stock to pot and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, and continue simmering for 30 minutes.

5.  Remove herb bundle from soup.  With an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency (or puree in batches in a blender or food processor, then return to pot) and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.

 6.  Stir baby spinach into soup and bring to a simmer.  Once spinach is silky and wilted, ladle into bowls.

 7.  Drizzle the soup with a little good olive oil and serve with wedges of Meyer or regular lemon.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

:: hair forecasting ::

Unless it's raining, I have trouble telling if there's moisture in the air. My hair, on the other hand, can tell instantly. If it's humid at all, my hair is a mess before I get out my front gate. And this is why I can never, ever move to Florida.

I figured there must be an app out there to tell me whether I should sock bun it or bombshell it, and I can't find one out there...BUT, I did find a website that does just about the same thing. Enter your city or zip code at Hair Forecast and get a two day forecast with a 1-10 rating on how well your hair will fare in your hometown weather. Brilliant.

Today felt like a zero to me, but maybe my expectations are too high:

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

:: get your boston bronze on ::

And by "bronze", I do not mean that lovely pink hue on my cheeks. That's windburn. Escalating slowly into frostbite. On days weeks like this when ice and snow remind me who's boss, I need some extra help to not look like death.

Here are my tips for a good winter bronzing:

1. Go a shade lighter than your summer bronzer. In my case, this is only one shade lighter than my skin tone instead of two.

2. Use a powder, always. Not a liquid (too fake-y and too hard to apply and blend).

3. Use a kabuki brush instead of regular blush brush. It distributes the color better and helps to avoid streaking.

And if you're looking for a tutorial, here's a great one from Birchbox:

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Monday, December 16, 2013

:: navy + black: i just can't ::

I know this is a thing now, according to those who are far more fashion forward than me. But it just feels wrong.

So here's what I'm told is the new loose rule about pairing navy with black (via a very nice personal shopper at the Copley J. Crew): Navy is blue and black goes with anything, therefore, navy and blue match. Um, ok, I guess I can go along with that logic. Also, but are neutrals. You got me there, too. And navy and blue are always good together IF the textures are different. So, if I wear a silky navy skirt and a black leather jacket like my friend Kate Bosworth over here, then I'm good. 

I'm still not sure. I'm not judging anyone who does it, but it's kinda like fringe and tassles for me. I get that it's fashion-y and on-trend, but I just feel ridiculous doing it. Anyone else?

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Friday, December 13, 2013

:: need your stocking stuffed? start here ::

So, I don't know about you, but holiday shopping always gives me a teensy bit of anxiety.


Plain old shopping, I love. But the gift giving and the "Is it enough" and the  "What if someone gets me something and I didn't get them anything" and  the questions about what do I want is just too much for me. Which is why I try to do a little shopping all year round. But then I forget where I put the gifts I got people, or I find the gift but forget who it's for, and....well, you get it. Total mess.

Last week I headed over to the North End's Cocoanuts  for a Blog and Tweet Boston event that was a total treat (ha ha). From gourmet nut mixes to gift baskets to artisan chocolates, they have it all and it's so much better tasting and better for you than that stuff you get at the grocery store. Hershey's, I'm looking at you.

Instead, we feasted on samples from the following confectioners and chocolatiers, which are now prominently displayed on my list to Santa:

McCrea's Caramels: With names like Highland Scotch, Black Lava Sea Salt and Rosemary Truffle Sea Salt, these are an adult foodie's dream. I bought a sleeve of the truffle flavor and had no idea that mushrooms could ever be so welcome in a dessert. They're made with no chemicals and no corn syrup and are available at a whole bunch of retail stores as well as online. If you're ever tried to make caramels at home, you know it's haaaard. But these folks make it look easy. Packaging, color, taste.

Pure 7 Chocolate: Handmade by two moms in Carlisle, MA, Pure 7's website isn't quite up and running yet. But here's what I know: They use honey instead of refined sugar, so those of us trying to be a bit more natural can eat it and not at all feel deprived. At all. The chocolate is super smooth.  The packaging is low on processing, just like the product and it's available in mint, coffee, dark chocolate and salted almond.

Raaka Chocolate: Billed as virgin chocolate, this unroasted, stone ground, small batch chocolate is made in Brooklyn and comes in amazing flavors like Himalayan Sea Salt and Vanilla Rooibos, my personal favorite. They liken the different flavor profiles of different cacao growing reasons to wine varietals. And the chocolate is called "virgin" because it's certified organic, fair trade, soy free, nut free and vegan.

So if you're on my Christmas list, you're probably getting chocolate this year. And now you know why. Feel free to thank me with...well, chocolate. 

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Monday, December 9, 2013

:: falling for follain ::

So, a group of us got together last week at Follain, a cute little skincare shop on Dartmouth Street in the South End. From the white tiling to the farmer's sink to the bottles and bottles of good things for my skin, its a dream for anyone who wants to try to inch their way to a more natural hair/skin/cosmetic regimen.

The idea of it is overwhelming. One thing that Tara, the owner, mentioned was that the reason birth control and nicotine patches work is because our skin absorbs what we put on it. Sounds obvious, but I never really thought about it like that. So if the lotion I bought on sale at CVS has a million ingredients that I can't pronounce, some of those chemicals penetrating my skin must be a little bad. Or, at least not good.

Most of the lines in the shop are available only in spas, so it's great to get to browse, sniff and learn about them outside of that setting. I chose a few to experiment with:

Earth Tu Face Palmarosa + Aloe cleanser: The purest form of gentle soap made with organic oils. Vitamin E and Olive Oil replenish and refresh the face without drying. Palmarosa and Ylang Ylang balance both oily and dry skin types. Aloe hydrates and heals the skin.

Shamanuti Seaweed toner:  Skin loves this nutrient and mineral rich toner. It adjusts pH and refines the pores. It will nourish and hydrate the skin while removing any residual make-up or cleanser.

Shamanuti Creme #1:  This beloved Creme is an ingenious formulation that works in multiple ways. Cosmetically it works to balance color imperfections and shine while working on a cellular level to stimulate cell repair. It has a high percentage of silk peptides which, when encapsulated into the layers of the skin, create a stronger firmer clearer skin. Crème No. 1 also provides a physical block against environmental pollution and sun damage. The proprietary seaweed complex in Crème No. 1 is a healing agent for scars, fine lines and wrinkles. This luxurious recipe contains neroli, a rare and precious essential oil, which works as an antispasmodic, helping facial muscles to relax. Crème No. 1 is ideal for all skin types.

So far, the scents are divine, which is ironic because they're all natural. They're just herbal-ly and my sensitive/winter itchy/dry skin is not complaining one bit. 

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Friday, December 6, 2013

:: pantone-ing it with radiant orchid ::

I'm ready for 2014. So ready. And feasting my eyes on the shade below as Pantone's pick for color of year, makes me even more excited for the year ahead. Purple is my favorite color, but usually I'm drawn to more of an eggplanty/aubergine instead of this more pinky swatch. But it's working for me. It matches with black, brown and navy. I haven't seen that since....well, since Pantone's pick for 2013. But that makes them at least two for two in my book.

Also, I need that fur hooded coat in my life, stat. It's getting cold up in here.
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Monday, December 2, 2013

:: first printer food and drink ::

So, we can't have happy hour in Boston because...well, no one really knows why. Those dollar Buds? $5 margaritas? Nope. Not here. Again, I think it has something to do with us being pilgrims.

Anyway, a lot of smart restaurants get around this by offering food specials along the ten-cent-wings kinda theme. And First Printer in Harvard Square is one of them. Aside from a location tucked away on Dunster Street and yet still steps away from the Harvard T stop, a cozy bar and helpful staff, I got a delicious meal for $18:

1 glass of Proscecco: $7
Six oysters: $6
Margarita flatbread: $5

The $5 flatbreads and $1 oysters are round the clock specials if you sit at the bar. It's a perfect spot and a perfect menu for a cold December day (or night). Just face the window and watch those crazy Cantabridgians walk on by.

And just for the record, the oysters and flatbread were shared. I'm trying to get back down to my fighting weight by New Year's Eve. Le sigh.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

:: What are you wearing to Thanksgiving? ::

My two requirements for a Thanksgiving Day outfit are pretty simple: an expandable waistline and fall colors. And I will abuse any excuse I get to stretch a maxi dress/skirt into fall.

Monday, November 25, 2013

:: three bean crock pot chili ::

It's chili time again! My face almost froze off while I was walking to my office this morning. One of the ONLY good things about cold weather is the comfort food. And I'm planning on giving my crock pot a workout this winter. This recipe is really easy and at only 2-3 hours in the crockpot, you don't need to plan too far in advance. Enjoy!

  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, minced
  • 30 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 30 oz. canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 30 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 30 oz. canned diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 15 oz. canned tomato sauce
  • 1.25 oz chili seasoning mix
  • 14 oz. frozen corn kernels 
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro
Combine onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasoning mix in a crock pot. Cover and cook on high heat for 2-3 hours (or low heat for 4-6 hours). Add corn during last hour of cooking. Stir in lime juice and cilantro just before serving. I also add some hot sauce because that's what I do. Enjoy!

Linking up with the Recipe Hop Swap!
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

:: watch "the whale", please"

Has anyone seen this documentary? My brother suggested it to me because besides obviously being about a whale, it's also about "the stupidity and awesomeness of people". Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

Here's the scoop:

THE WHALE tells the true story of a young, wild killer whale - an orca - nicknamed Luna, who lost contact with his family on the coast of British Columbia and turned up alone in a narrow stretch of sea between mountains, a place called Nootka Sound.

Orcas are social. They live with their families all their lives. An orca who gets separated usually just fades away and dies.

Luna was alone, but he didn’t fade away. There weren’t any familiar orcas in Nootka Sound, but there were people, in boats and on the shore. So he started trying to make contact. And people welcomed him. Most of them.

This contact did not turn out to be simple. It was as if we humans weren’t ready for him. 

Inspired by myths, we look into the sky, not the depths, for others who might think and dream like us. We train radio telescopes on the stars, and listen for code in the static of space. But maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. So far, space just crackles, but the sea whistles back. And, in Nootka Sound, it sent us an open-hearted child.

This story is about what happened then.

Oh, and it's narrated by Ryan Reynolds and produced by Scarlett Johansson, if that at all tempts you to watch it...
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

:: amazing cara box reveal ::

I hit the jackpot you guys with this month's cara box swap. THE JACKPOT. Paired up with Jasmine of Green Eyed Monster, she went crazy over and above to make me happy. At this very moment, the earrings I'm wearing and the lunchbag on my desk are from her shipment to me.

Jasmine did an amazing job of reading my blog and picking out the best stuff ever. I'm positive that gift giving is her love language.  Here's what I got:

Blue Avocado lunch tote.  Now that I've discovered them, a few folks on my list will be saying hello to them on Christmas morning.

Stella & Dot Delphie stone studs in navy. They are seriously the cutest.

The New Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook. Jasmine's right...even if the recipes suck, the book itself just LOOKS amazing. But I'm sure the recipes are going to kill it, too.

The Ciroa Microwave Me bowl. This is in a great black and white fiore pattern that matches my chairs, my rug and the little scrap of fabric that I use as a background for all of my recipe posts. And it fits right in my Blue Avocado tote!

She threw in some nail care items for good measure and I'm in heaven. Thanks for making my swap a success, girl! For everyone else, go see Jasmine and get some beauty advice and inspiration! 

And a P.S., I love that both of us own our status as a formosa candidus. Google it.

Cara Box

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Friday, November 15, 2013

:: wanted: big black bag with gold hardware ::

I have handbags upon handbags upon handbags. But the really cute ones are too small for me to bring to work. I need space for my planner, books, magazines, a ridiculously too big wallet, snacks, etc. Those cute little cross bodies just aren't cutting it.

I'm on the hunt for the perfect hobo/satchel that I can take to work and won't kill my shoulder. And I occasionally frequently go for drinks after work so it needs to be something that can hang on a bar hook and not look or feel cumbersome. Here are some great picks off Polyvore that run the price gamut. And the hardware has to be gold. I'm a gold girl now, all the way.

Anyone out there using any that they love?
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

:: three cheers for loud furniture ::

Here is a partial photo of my living room. I got those chairs at an awesome antique store called the ScreenDoor in Asheville, NC. Luckily, my parents arrived with a car shortly after I fell in love with them, so I had a means of transporting them back to Boston.

I get that they're not for everyone, but while they're on the "different" side, they're still pretty tame. Enter these beauties that I've found in my travels (and when I say travels, I mean multiple trips to numerous Anthropologies in Massachusetts and neighboring states):

They're like the statement necklace of the home. I get that I can't have more than one crazy print like this in a room, but I want to. I SO want to.

Oh and while you're here, take a look at the Spornette brush manufacturer's blog--they're featuring last week's post on protecting your strands and impersonating Kate Middleton. Or trying, in my case...
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

:: beneFit's advent calendar! ::

I went into Home Depot this past weekend for some light bulbs and was horribly horrified (redundant on purpose) that there are straight up Christmas tree displays and Christmas carols playing and the whole nine yards. It's too early, people.

That being said, this entire post is going to be highly hypocritical. Later in my weekend travels, I stopped by BeneFit on Newbury to get my new favorite beauty product, They're Real mascara. Best thing ever. Anyway, on my way out, I saw this:

BeneFit has an advent calendar. !!! Does anyone else think this is the cutest thing ever? I'm disappointed in myself for liking it when we are still pre-Turkey day, and it also might be a smidge blasphemous. But, it is darling. Here's what's inside the 2013 Count Down to Love Advent Calendar ($69):

deluxe "that gal" 7.5 mL/0.25 US fl. oz.
deluxe the POREfessional 7.5 mL/0.25 US fl. oz.
deluxe high beam 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe sun beam 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe benetint 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe chachatint 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe posietint 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe ultra plush lip gloss in CORALista, sugarbomb, dandelion, A-lister 4 x 6.5 mL/0.22 US fl. oz.
deluxe hoola, deluxe dandelion, deluxe CORALista 3 x 3.0 g Net wt. 0.1 oz.
deluxe BADgal lash mascara 4.0 g Net wt. 0.14 oz.
deluxe stay don't stray in light/medium 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl. oz.
deluxe BADgal liner waterproof 0.5g Net wt. 0.02 oz.
deluxe it's potent eye cream 3.0g Net wt. 0.1 oz.
deluxe total moisture facial cream 8.9 g net wt. 0.3 oz.
deluxe ooh la lift 2.5 mL/0.08 US fl oz.
deluxe girl meets pearl 7.5 mL/0.25 US fl oz.
horseshoe charm bracelet
star charm necklace
ribbon bow barrette

It seems to be all kind of sold out online, but I can verify that it's still in stock at least at the Boston store. Has anyone grabbed it in years past? 

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

:: that time i made risotto... ::

This post is super tardy, but better late than never! Last month, I went to one of my favorite Boston spots, the Boston Center for Adult Education, to take a risotto making class from one of their best cooking instructors, Diane Manteca.

Risotto is notoriously difficult to master with all the constant stirring to get it just right. But it's such a versatile dish--it can serve as an appetizer or a main course, it can become vegetarian/vegan, seasonal or meat filled very easily, and it can even be a dessert (dolce risotto, anyone?).

When I walked in, there were wine glasses on the table, which is a good start to any class, in my opinion. We also got to take home gourmet shallots from Victoria Gourmet, who is now partnering with BCAE on all of their cooking classes. After three hours, we had made FIVE dishes. I left with a full belly, a few good tips for trying risotto on my own and some secrets about where the best Italian hole-in-the-wall restaurants are in Boston. Hint: NOT the North End.

Interested? Diane is teaching the class again on December 19. Sign up!
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